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Minivans with Great Utility

Minivans with Great UtilityMinivans with Great Utility

Despite the current crossover craze, it’s difficult to beat the utility of a minivan when it comes to seating and cargo capacity. Most of today’s minivans offer more cargo space and better fuel economy than crossovers with the same number of seats. If the soccer-mom looks of most minivans don’t send you running for the hills, you’ll be able to get a vehicle with some of the most useful features on the market.

Minivan Passenger Space

Minivans vary in size, from the six-seat Mazda Mazda5 to the Toyota Sienna, which offers seating for up to eight. If you’re buying a minivan, passenger comfort is probably very important, so make your family a part of the shopping experience.

If you have young children, take them -- and their car seats -- along to make sure that they fit in the back comfortably. There should be enough room for you to easily secure them into their seats. You should also consider the number of Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) child seat connectors in each van, which make it easier to install car seats quickly and properly. The Honda Odyssey has five sets of LATCH connectors, which is the most of any minivan.

If your passengers are a bit older, be sure to hop in the second- and third-row seats to ensure they’re comfortable for teens and adults. The Volkswagen Routan earns high marks for its adult-friendly third row, while the back seat of the smaller Mazda5 is best left to kids.

Minivan Cargo Space

One of the most unique minivan features is the seating configurations that are possible in the second and third rows. Look for seats that easily slide, fold and recline to improve passenger comfort or cargo space. The Dodge Grand Caravan and its corporate sibling, the Chrysler Town & Country, feature standard Stow ‘n Go seating that can fold flat into the floor, allowing unique arrangements to accommodate passengers and cargo.

Picking a minivan that has the most cargo space with all seats in use is a good idea if you want to ensure you’ll have a lot of storage room, even when the whole family is aboard. The Honda Odyssey and the Dodge Grand Caravan both seat at least seven, but the Odyssey has 93.1 cubic feet of space with the third row stowed. That’s about 10 more cubic feet than the Grand Caravan’s 83.3. The extra cargo space available in the Odyssey will surely come in handy if you’ve got five people in the van and need to haul their stuff.

The Toyota Sienna has a total of 150 cubic feet of cargo space. The Sienna slots between the Odyssey and Grand Caravan with 87.1 cubic feet of room behind the second row of seats, and the Sienna has 39.1 cubic feet behind the third row.

Roof rails are common on minivans, and are a good feature for buyers who need to transport larger items. Most minivans can be fitted with a variety of attachments to carry bikes, skis, kayaks and cargo boxes.

Certain exterior features can also enhance the utility of your new minivan. Options such as power sliding doors and rear liftgates are a welcome addition for parents who have their hands full.

Minivan Interior Storage

Most minivans come with basic storage features such as door pockets, a glove compartment, cup holders for all your passengers’ beverages and a couple 12-volt power outlets. Models such as the Volkswagen Routan and Dodge Grand Caravan also have under-floor storage bins and an overhead storage console.

The Toyota Sienna has two glove compartments: an upper glove compartment and a lockable lower glove compartment, which is ideal for storing MP3 players and cell phones to keep them out of sight.

The Nissan Quest has an under-floor storage well in the cargo area that stretches across the width of the minivan. This cargo well is great for storing sports gear, wet clothes, muddy shoes or hiding valuable items.

Utilitarian Minivans

Make/Model

Mazda Mazda5

Dodge Grand Caravan

Toyota Sienna

Honda Odyssey

MSRP

$19,940

$19,995

$26,300

$28,675

Maximum Seats

6

7

8

8

Maximum Cargo Capacity (cubic feet)

N/A

143.8

150

148.5

LATCH Connectors

2

2

3

5